Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
While it describes only the events of the first month of WWI, it does so in such great detail and with such clarity and vividness that it is quite understandable why The Guns of August received the Pulitzer Prize and is considered a classic in the military history of WWI. It provides a history of the plans, strategies, world events, and international sentiments prior to and during the war. As Stephen Pinker so brilliantly summarizes, “The carnage was stupefying; 8.5M deaths in combat and perhaps 15M deaths overall in just 4yrs. Romantic militarism by itself cannot explain the orgy of slaughter... the war was a perfect storm of destructive currents brought suddenly together by the iron dice of Mars. An ideological background of militarism and nationalism a sudden contest of honor that threatened the credibility of each of the great powers; a Hobbesian trap that frightened leaders into attacking before they were attached first and overconfidence that deluded each of them into thinking that victory would come swiftly... military machines that could deliver massive quantities of men to a front that could mow them down as quickly as they arrived... a game of attrition that locked the two sides into seeking exponentially greater costs into a ruinous situation; all set off by a Serbian nationalist who had a lucky day.” These are all brilliantly dissected, elucidated and offered by Barbara Tuchman for our close examination. The traps, miscalculations and mistakes are all there. More examples of the follies of war.
I read TGoA because I was interested in knowing more about WWI. The book did not disappoint because in fact I was more interested in the beginning of the war, its participants and cause(s). TGoA is not an exhaustive military analysis of the entire war; again, it really only considers the first month in detail. For those such as I, it is sufficient. For those interested in the four years following, it’s a great introduction, one probably without equal.
I couldn't listen to this when I first downloaded it. Did not appreciate the narration.
But after a couple of years I gave it another try and found it gripping. I became accustomed
to the narration. The timing and pace of it was perfect. I now understand
why the Guns of August is considered a classic.
Overall: a great way to learn some basics about WWI from a certain narrow perspective. I'm generally interested in broader social aspects of history but this is great for what it is.
Content: This is about the dozen or so generals and heads of state who got the world into WWI and all the messes that followed. Given that, I felt that there was surprisingly little about the Austrian Kaiser and what led to the decision to invade Serbia after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. This was the key decision that started the cascade but we don't really get to know Franz Josef and his entourage or hear anything about the world trying to get him to take back his move. I don't usually think of history this way, but if that is what the book is about then it seems like this would be the key plot point but it's more of a footnote. ???
One reviewer said it was anti-German. I'm not sure how. All the leaders come off as lunatics willing to kill hundreds of thousands of soldiers (including their own) for nothing. Under the Kaiser's orders, the German army did invade neutral Belgium and commit atrocities there against civilians.
Narrator: WIth regards to the previous reviews I have to agree that doing foreign voices in English with a funny accent is silly, but a common Hollywood device. The pronunciation of foreign names was was excellent compared with most Audible narrators. Overall, I thought she did a very good job.
She was way too shrill. I have other books she's read that weren't awful, but she was intolerable here.
I recommend the version read by John Lee.
The unbelievable amount of research that must have gone into this book is amazing. Little anecdotes and quotes create something that reads more like a novel. Hugely informative and entertaining.
More narrative non-fiction
Didn't like the voice or tempo
It was an award winner so this dislike may just be on me.